Weekly Action Scripts February 7

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Welcome to your weekly scripts! Last time I gave scripts for calling and tweeting elected officials about various issues related to disabilities. This week let’s talk immigration. This one will not be quite as long as last week’s as there aren’t quite as many issues immediately on the table right now, but I promise there will be more.

The biggest issue on the table at the moment is the travel ban that came through an executive order from President Trump. There’s not a whole lot that legislators can do about this one, as it’s an executive order, but this is a good time to bombard Trump’s social media and phone lines to make it as clear as possible that we do not condone an act that seems to be motivated by blatant racism and fearmongering.

In my previous post I outlined the best ways to contact the White House, as the comment line is no longer open. Make sure you check that out if you’re planning to make calls. Here are some basic scripts for contacting President Trump to urge him to end this ban.

Twitter: @realDonaldTrump your immigration ban does nothing to improve safety and hurts people who need help. END IT.

Phone call script:

Hello, I am calling in regards to the travel ban that President Trump has put on people from seven Middle Eastern countries. I am calling because as an American citizen, I believe that this ban is inappropriate, cruel, and not in the best interests of the American people. Immigrants already go through a heavy screening process, and it is inappropriate to leave refugees with nowhere to go. This ban does not make America any safer, but it has broken apart families, left many people in confusion about whether it affects them, and sent a clear message that America is not friendly to people of different nationalities and religions. I urge President Trump to reverse the ban. Thank you.

The second issue I’d recommend making yourself heard on is the wall on the Mexican border (it feels like a goddamn post apocalyptic caricature to even type that).

Twitter: @realdonaldtrump Mexico will not pay for a wall. Immigrants should be welcome in America, and this wall puts people in real danger. NO WALL.

Phone call script:

Hello, I am calling in regards to President Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border. I am calling to urge President Trump to reconsider, as this will be exorbitantly expensive, ineffective, and does not represent the attitudes of the American people. We should welcome those who come to us for a better life. Please do not move forward with this wall. Thank you.

As always, feel free to adjust these scripts to suit your needs. I had a friend turn last week’s into postcards, which was fantastic! If you have a particular issue you’d like some scripts for, let me know in comments. Thanks all!

Your Weekly Action Scripts

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I was talking on Facebook with some friends yesterday about the fact that the cost/benefit of calling my congresspeople just isn’t worth it for me. I could do it, but it would sap all my energy. I asked for ideas of other things I could do to help, and one of my friends made a great suggestion: write scripts for others who can call. Now THIS I can do! So I’m making it my mission this year (and possibly throughout the entire Trump administration) to identify one issue a week and write scripts for you to contact your Congresspeople, the White House, and any other relevant parties. I’m also going to include some pre-written tweets, so that if you have a Twitter account you can tweet at your representatives.

All of these scripts should be adaptable for letter writing, although if you are planning to write a letter I would urge you to include something personal in your letter as it gets more attention if it’s a unique letter. Apparently postcards also get through more quickly than actual letters due to the anthrax scare, so keep that in mind.

This week I’d like to focus on disability issues, as I complained enough about them not getting enough attention in my last post. There are three main concerns that I have right now in regards to the disability community. I would recommend calling your representatives over the course of a couple days and each day using one of these scripts.

Issue One: Repealing the ACA

Why this is important: Trump and a variety of GOP lawmakers have vowed to repeal the ACA. This is of particular concern to the disability community because the ACA made it illegal to deny someone health insurance based on a preexisting condition. For those with disabilities, this made health care a possibility where it had not been.

Calling script for your Senate and House representative: “Hello, my name is ___ and I am your constituent from [location and zip]. I’d like to speak with the individual in your office who handles calls concerning the ACA.”

They will either transfer you or say that they can help you out. If they do not transfer you, ask for the name of the individual who handles calls concerning the ACA. You can use this name in future calls. Then proceed with the script: “Thank you. I’m calling to urge Senator/Representative _______ to oppose any attempts to repeal the ACA. The ACA made it illegal for insurers to refuse someone based on preexisting conditions. This allowed thousands of Americans with disabilities to finally access important, life saving care, and I urge Senator/Representative _____ to remember those Americans when the time comes to vote on the ACA, and ensure that insurers are not allowed to deny Americans based on preexisting conditions.”

The staff member will likely thank you and may ask if you want a response from the representative. You can say yes or no. They may also take your full name, phone number, and address. There’s a possibility they will tell you that the representative will not do what you’ve asked. If so, you can simply say “I will call again tomorrow. Thank you.”

Calling Script for the White House: This one is a little bit tricky. The main White House comment line (202-456-1111) appears to be closed. You can try it, but it appears to suggest that you use Facebook or the comment form on their website. Teen Vogue (the unexpected head of the resistence) has put together a useful article on contacting Trump’s businesses, as this appears to be the quickest way to actually reach the president. A strong note: please do not harass anyone working for Trump’s businesses. Remain polite.

“Hello, my name is ___ and I am calling to leave feedback for President Trump. As his White House comment line is closed, I am choosing to contact him through his business holdings.”

The person you’re talking to might be confused. They may try to ask you to make a reservation for a tee time or a hotel. If that happens, you can ask for a supervisor and repeat the above line. If they say that that’s not appropriate, simply say “please pass along my comment to your higher ups. I would like my President to receive my feedback. I will not take much of your time.” If they listen, use the following script.

“I am an American citizen, and I am calling to urge President Trump to cease his efforts to repeal the ACA. The ACA made it illegal for insurers to refuse someone based on preexisting conditions. This allowed thousands of Americans with disabilities to finally access important, life saving care, and I urge President Trump to veto any legislation that would allow preexisting conditions to return. Thank you for your time.”

Tweet for senators: @[your senator or representative] vote against repealing ACA. Preexisting conditions make it impossible for disabled Americans to get coverage!

Tweet for White House: @potus do not repeal ACA! Denial of insurance based on preexisting conditions kills disabled Americans.

Issue Two: Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education

Why this is an issue: Betsy DeVos is a problem for a wide range of reasons, but the ones I’d like to focus on are the fact that she did not know what IDEA was when asked during her hearing, and is very focused on school choice and deregulation. IDEA is the legislation that protects disabled students and gives them access to accommodations in their education. Her focus on deregulation is likely to remove many of the protections for disabled students, which are already underfunded and weak. This would likely leave disabled students with little to no support, or put away in separate schools that are not held to the same educational standards as other schools.

Calling script for your Senate and House representative: “Hello, my name is ___ and I am your constituent from [location and zip]. I’d like to speak with the individual in your office who handles education.”

They will either transfer you or say that they can help you out. If they do not transfer you, ask for the name of the individual who handles calls concerning the education. You can use this name in future calls. Then proceed with the script: “Thank you. I’m calling to urge Senator/Representative _______ to oppose Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Ms. DeVos showed during her hearing that she did not know the basics of IDEA, a key piece of legislating protecting disabled students. She has also urged for deregulation of schools, which would further undermine supports for disabled students. This is disastrous for any students who require accommodations and supports to succeed in school, and will put future Americans with disabilities at a disadvantage in employment, life skills, and higher education. Please ensure all students have access to a free public education by opposing Betsy DeVos and demanding support and funding for IDEA.”

The staff member will likely thank you and may ask if you want a response from the representative. You can say yes or no. They may also take your full name, phone number, and address. There’s a possibility they will tell you that the representative will not do what you’ve asked. If so, you can simply say “I will call again tomorrow. Thank you.”

Calling Script for the White House: see above for notes on contacting the White House.

“I am an American citizen, and I am calling to urge President Trump to rethink his decision of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Ms. DeVos showed during her hearing that she did not know the basics of IDEA, a key piece of legislating protecting disabled students. She has also urged for deregulation of schools, which would further undermine supports for disabled students. This is disastrous for any students who require accommodations and supports to succeed in school, and will put future Americans with disabilities at a disadvantage in employment, life skills, and higher education. Please encourage President Trump to ensure all students have access to a free public education by finding a different Secretary of Education who will support and fund IDEA.Thank you for your time.”

Tweets for Senator/Representative: I would recommend looking up whether your representative has come out in opposition to Betsy DeVos and select the appropriate Tweet.

For those who oppose: @[your representative or senator] thank you for opposing Betsy DeVos. She is wholly inappropriate for Sec. of Ed and will do harm to all students esp disabled ones

For those who do not oppose: @[your representative or senator] please oppose Betsy DeVos as Sec of Ed. She does not know what IDEA is. We need support for disabled students.

Tweet for POTUS: @potus Betsy DeVos is an inappropriate choice for Sec of Ed. She does not know what IDEA is. We need support for disabled students.

 

Issue Three: removal of all mentions of disability from WhiteHouse.gov

Why this is an issue: it’s fairly normal for an administration to change up the website when they move in, but what isn’t normal is for entire issues to be removed entirely. President Trump has replaced any mention of disability with issues like “America First policies”, because apparently Americans with disabilities aren’t important enough to be on his docket of issues.

For this one, all communications should go to the White House. See above for notes on calling the White House.

Script for White House: “I am calling to urge President Trump to add disability issues to whitehouse.gov. All mention of disability issues was removed when he entered office, erasing the concerns of millions of Americans. Please encourage President Trump to remember these Americans and fight for their rights. Thank you for your time.”

For the White House FB Page and White House comment page: I am deeply concerned that President Trump has removed disabilities from the list of issues on Whitehouse.gov. Americans with disabilities make up 19% of the population, and in the past have experienced serious discrimination, oppression, and abuse. Please return disability issues to the table and include them on whitehouse.gov. Disabled Americans deserve the support of their president, not someone who will erase them from the conversation.

NOTE: you can find the comment page here, and the FB page here. Feel free to adapt and expand this for a postcard.

Tweet for the White House: @POTUS I am appalled that you have removed all mention of disabilities from whitehouse.gov. Disabled Americans cannot be erased.

Look forward to next week’s scripts on Sunday. I hope to tackle some immigration issues. Together we can make our voices heard.

Genders and Scripts

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Let’s imagine two video games.

In both of these games a youngish protagonist finds that the woman they love has been abducted or in some other way put in danger. In both games the protagonist’s goal is to find and save the person they love, defeating the bad guys and living happily ever after. In both of these games, the central point is that someone is motivated by love to keep someone they care about safe.

Now let’s say that in one the main character is a man and in the other the main character is a woman.

The reaction to these two games would probably be drastically different. Especially within the gaming community, one would be seen as a fairly normal game, and depending upon the gameplay, graphics, and overall storyline, it could be considered a great game.

Meanwhile, the game with a female protagonist rescuing her female lover would be considered “political” or “radical,” boycotted by some, and probably harassed by the GamerGate style gamers who would see it as unnecessarily drawing in personal opinions to the gaming world, as beating them down with a liberal or feminist agenda, as a bad game because it broke the scripts that they were used to.

Except that the script is exactly the same.

It’s hardly exciting or new to realize that in some circles and cultures a person’s genitalia is more important than their actions, emotions, or personality. But what astounds me about these types of script flipping is that the exact same actions can be seen as normal or even praiseworthy when done by a man but as political or pandering when done by a woman. It’s amazing to me that simply writing a woman (even in exactly the same way as you might a parallel man) is considered by some people to be bad or unbelievable. It’s as if some people, even today, can’t find any way to connect with a character if they have the little tag that says “woman.”

And on the flip side, I find it fascinating that as a feminist I can be more drawn to the same script simply by adding a woman into a role typically filled by a man. I’m not sure that this is a bad thing due to representation issues, but I do hope that some day we can reach a point where the internal experiences of a character are what make them engaging and important rather than their pronouns or genitalia.

It is amazing to me how different a script becomes in its political and social role simply by changing a character from male to female.

Boundaries Mean Cruelty

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One of my favorite blogs in the world is Captain Awkward. It’s an advice blog, a format I rarely read, but in this case it deals primarily with scripts and suggestions for setting boundaries. Sure, there’s lots of variations on that, but almost across the board it’s about making space for yourself, aimed at introverts, weird and awkward types, the socially anxious, and those who live in the world of oppression. It’s fantastic and you all should check it out.

Thanks to the help of Captain Awkward, a lot of DBT, and a pile of friends who openly talk about self care and openly asking for what we need, I’ve started to practice boundary setting as often as possible. It’s amazing how difficult it is to open my mouth to simply say something like “please don’t talk about calories around me,” but there you go. The internalized people pleasing is strong in me.

I’m getting better. I can tell friends that I’m not up for hanging out if I need to, I can tell my boyfriend when I don’t feel comfortable with something, I can even to some extent enforce my boundaries in the online world. But for some reason it all breaks down when it comes to my family. My family has always been pretty close, and we like to get together. We like to party. We like to eat a lot of food together. And we like to spend a great deal of time together, especially around the holidays.

Now through the process of reading about the fleeting thing called “normalcy” I have gleaned that my family goes a bit above and beyond in terms of holiday activities. I, on the other hand, am fairly socially anxious and spending many days in a row with the extended fam can be a drain.

So this year I’m opting out of some of the festivities. I’m making sure I see all the out of towners, get some immediate family time in, and trying to fit in friends too. But I’m skipping almost half of our events.

Part of me is convinced that the message I’m sending by setting this boundary, by saying that I am an adult with a job and friends and responsibilities and in order to take care of myself I need to take these steps, I am telling my family that I don’t love them. Part of my brain still reads “setting a boundary” as “cruelty”.

I know that by taking time to myself I am doing my best by everyone. I’ll be a happier, friendlier, more outgoing human being in the times that I do see my family. I’ll be able to be more present with them and actually (hopefully) have good conversations and interactions instead of living in a state of stress and anxiety that makes me antisocial and cranky. I know that one day of good time together is better than a week of time struggling to cope.

So why is it that I still read it as inappropriate? Why do I still read the boundary setting as taking something away from other people when in reality my time is not something that I owe anyone, it’s something I choose to give to others? Somewhere along the line society has convinced me that certain people deserve my time, no matter what that means. Not only that, but they deserve my time in a fashion that is acquiescing and non confrontational.

This is not to say that my family demands some sort of creepy submission, but that challenging your family, setting boundaries, or even just asking someone not to do something is viewed as hostile by many people. Not showing up is seen as a sign, and it’s not a good one.

I don’t know what it is about family that triggers the “you should not be an independent human being, you owe all your time to these people” script in my brain. I don’t know if this is something that happens to others, the selective way the mind chooses people you cannot be an adult with. But I know that it isn’t healthy to feel like I’m five again whenever my family asks me to do things, certain that I don’t actually have any choices but petulantly running to my room or doing what they ask.

So I’m sticking with my boundaries. Discomfort be damned.

Asexuality and Norms

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Warning: this will be a bit ranty.

There’s a story that goes around in asexual communities, often when someone tries to explain asexuality for the first time. It goes like this:

I never really understood the fuss about dating. I’ve always had good friends, but sometimes they make jokes about sex and I never get them. The idea of taking off my clothes and rubbing my body against someone else’s is just weird. I can’t imagine getting married. I’ve never had a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, although I wouldn’t mind having a really close friend that is my roommate. Everyone said I was a late bloomer or that I would like sex if I tried it, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m completely oblivious to come ons and flirtation, I don’t like to dress sexy, and I prefer to be fairly agender. I’ve never had sex, haven’t dated, don’t kiss, and probably never will. I’m asexual, and everything about sex is foreign to me, which means I’m socially awkward.

Unfortunately, this is not the nice, clean, clearcut story that I experienced, and it does a large disservice to many aces who are capable of functioning in allosexual society without any feelings of difference. One of the first ways that asexuality gets defined is by lack: you’re lacking attraction. Many people who openly identify as asexual and who write about their experiences seem to identify at least something like lack: they didn’t date. They didn’t kiss. They didn’t have crushes. All of these are things that others wanted or had, but which they didn’t want.

I started dating when I was 14. Compulsory sexuality is an extremely strong force, and especially for someone like me who really enjoys close relationships and tends to prioritize one relationship over all others, the romantic model works well for me (probably too well, but that’s a story for another day). I’ve been in a romantic relationship nearly constantly since then. I’ve had sex with multiple partners, and at the time I was perfectly happy with that. I was never particularly confused by my orientation, always clearly straight. I’ve had crushes since I was 13 or 14. I’ve talked about boys with my friends and hit all the dating, sexual, and romantic milestones that most people do: first date, first kiss, first boyfriend, first breakup. I’m not confused by the pain and hurt and confusion that often comes along with romantic relationships.

I have always wanted romantic relationships. I feel attraction, although not sexual attraction. I don’t fit the typical script of asexuality. It took me until this year (and I am 23) to figure out that I might be ace. Why? Because I’m adaptable. I’m good at making my experience fit into scripts and narratives. I’m really good at doing what I’m supposed to do and think that it’s what I want to do. I have strong romantic feelings, and for aces who aren’t also aro, it can be easy to meld your romantic tendencies into the dominant patterns of sexuality in order to survive.

I’ve felt uneasy with the accepted norms of the ace community for a while now. I’ve wondered if I can really be ace if I didn’t have these experiences. But right now I’m asking a different question: does it help us to have these “tells”, these inside jokes among the community of always being the third wheel, of not understanding “that’s what she said”, or of never wanting to date?

The major benefit that I can see in these tropes is that they help us build community and they remind us that asexual experiences are different from allosexual experiences. But I also see numerous problems. First, there are tons of aces out there who don’t have these experiences, and positing them as litmus tests for aceyness actually divides the community. But more than that, it focuses more on what we’re lacking, how we diverge from the allosexual norm, instead of looking at the things we actually DO want. Once again, asexuality is NOT having all of these things, lacking the empathy and understanding to connect with other people, being on the fringe because we can’t do what others do.

When the story that is asexuality is about sticking out like a sore thumb, about being flabbergasted by your peers, or about knowing early on that you’re different, we erase the very real ability of many aces to blend in and adapt, to fit their needs into the scripts that are available to them, and we make aces look awkward and bizarre. It makes it look as if we’re incapable of empathy (hey guess what, I can actually empathize with feelings I’ve never had).

Perhaps worse, it helps to erase the ways that compulsory sexuality can interact with asexuality. One of the reasons I have been so good at melding my experiences into the dominant narrative is because we are awash in sexuality from such a young age. I learned how to make sex jokes because everyone made sex jokes all the time. I started dating because I knew early on that you dated someone you felt drawn to, all attraction is sexual attraction, dating is normal. That is what society tells us. Being asexual does not make you immune to societal influence, and it’s important to recognize that.

Yes, ace experiences are different from other people’s experiences. Yes, I have spent some time being a bit flabbergasted that people could be so motivated by sex. But that doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of functioning in a society designed for allosexual people. It doesn’t mean I can’t adapt or learn. It seems a bit condescending to imply that someone can’t understand sexual humor unless they’re motivated by sex, or that they wouldn’t understand why a relationship was important to another person unless they wanted sex and romance. We’re inundated with sex from the moment we’re born. Just as women learn to understand men’s experiences, so ace people learn early on to understand allosexual experiences early on.

Perhaps there are some aces that remain fairly oblivious their whole lives. But I can’t be the only ace out there who learned how to act allo in a society that prioritizes allo experiences. I suspect that if we started talking about some of those narratives, there might be a whole lot of people out there who come out of the woodwork and say “that’s me”.

These “tells” give us one picture of what it’s like to not feel sexual attraction. But what about the tell that says “I had sex because it’s what you’re supposed to do and it felt nice, but I preferred my relationships without it”? Or the one that says “I always thought I was monogamous because more sex sounded horrible to me, but now I think I’m in love with two people at once” or the one that said “I love this person and so I think I should have sex with them, but there are so many other things I’d rather do more”.

Not all of the tells are glaring social deviations. You can’t peg someone who’s asexual by looking for the socially awkward one with no partner and no sense of humor. Especially for those who are in the gray asexual category, or those who have romantic attractions, their behaviors can look a lot like those of allosexuals, but just different enough that they feel incredibly broken.

This is part of the tendency for people to point towards sexual trauma or medical dysfunction or gender confusion or disease as the reasons for asexuality: for some bizarre reason the people who manage to muddle through in a fairly mundane way don’t get the label asexual. We complain a lot about the oppression model of queerness, but in many ways we practice it in the asexual community too: if you weren’t weird/awkward/uncomfortable enough in your teen years, you’re probably not ace.

It seems to be accepted wisdom within the ace community that romantics get more air time. I haven’t seen this. I haven’t seen romantic whos blog, or who talk about what it’s like to try to find a romantic relationship in which the partner will accept you without sex. I haven’t seen romantics who talk about assuming their whole lives that when people talked about being “attracted” they were referring to what I felt: romantic attraction. Flutters in the chest, anxiety, excitement, tongue-tied moments, the need to see the beloved. Nobody talks about the moment that shatters your whole world when you realize that feeling that doesn’t mean you want sex.

I never felt a lack of anything. I never felt like I was missing out. I felt like things were being forced on me, like there were scripts and I knew them, but I didn’t like them. I don’t want to be defined by lack. I don’t want asexual scripts to replace allosexual scripts.

Perhaps part of this is bitterness at not being the gold star ace. But hopefully if we tell more varied stories, we won’t have to compare ourselves to that false ideal.

I Am Not A Puzzle to Be Solved

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Note: I do not mean this post to be a criticism of my parents or any of the other people in my life. I know that everyone is doing the best they can in the relationships that they have.

One of the things that I have come to value most in relationships is honesty and vulnerability, particularly the ability to be straightforward and ask questions. I have learned to appreciate this because in many cases, arguments or disagreements can be solved simply by finding out what the other person is actually thinking or feeling. More often than not, brainstorming solutions together will solve the problem.

Unfortunately, this is not the way that we’re taught to interact with people. From the time we’re little, we’re treated as little puzzles that need to be solved, as if there’s some code that can crack the behavior of a small child and get them to do what you want. I think that my parents did a fantastic job raising me, but even they bought into this mentality in some ways. When I’ve spoken to my parents about their techniques, my mother has told me things like “If you keep a kid on a schedule, they’ll be much less cranky” or “If you ignore a kid who’s throwing a tantrum they’ll stop”. Now these are effective techniques, and for new parents they can be a godsend, but unfortunately they don’t do much to validate the actual feelings of the child involved or teach the child what to do when they’re feeling overwhelmed or upset.

In contrast, I’ve been reading Libby Anne’s blog lately and there has been a surprising amount of content about treating your child as a real human being with legitimate needs and wants and the amazing returns that she’s gotten as a parent by adopting this technique. This involves validating a child’s emotions, trying to communicate and compromise where possible, and explaining why the answer is “no” when the answer has to be “no”. Instead of coming up with a series of tricks that will have a certain effect, Libby Anne prefers to work with her children to identify their emotions and brainstorm solutions so that in the long term they will learn how to manage those emotions themselves.

Unfortunately, most parents work by trying to devise methods to get their children to a certain behavior, rather than working with their children to create healthy behaviors and tools to live well. The most obvious and harmful example of this is corporal punishment: if you beat the child then they’ll do what you want and learn to do what you want them to do. But we all do this to some extent or another. Think of the magazines that boast “this quiz will tell you if he likes you” or “10 ways to tell if your relationship will last”. Every teenage girl has engaged in this behavior: trying to discern what the text means, trying to “unlock” the secrets. And media is even worse when it comes to portraying women (they’re a mystery!  A complete mystery! Buy her things to unlock the secrets!).

Friends do this to each other as well. There are “rules” to friendship (e.g. it’s against the rules to date your best friend’s sibling). Dating relationships are potentially the worst culprits. While many people say that they value communication, it is still all too common for people to try to figure out how to get their partner to act differently while not actually talking to their partner about what’s bothering them. “Nice guys” are a prime example, but I’ve been known to do this as well, thinking things like “If I just don’t speak up ever about what’s bothering me then they’ll think I’m nice and want to be with me forever” or “I’ve already texted x times and they haven’t texted back. Is it against the rules to text again? What are they trying to tell me? Do they hate me?” It’s a process of both mind-reading and personalization, in which every action must mean something about you and in order to crack the code you need to behave just so.

Unfortunately, human beings are not puzzles. There is no secret combination of words and presents that you can present to someone in order to unlock their love or kindness or good behavior. When we approach children in this fashion, we teach them to approach all relationships like this. And when we do this, we set them up for all kinds of problems. If relationships are about getting the other person to behave in the way that you want them to (whether that’s them being happy or that’s them doing whatever you want), and the way to do that is to find the “correct input”, then you end up with problems like people thinking they’re owed sex, or people believing that they’re allowed to do whatever it takes to get the result they want.

It can also lead to the flip side: people assuming that if others aren’t ok then it’s their fault, people thinking they have to manage the emotions of others, or people who have never been taught appropriate ways to deal with their own emotions because they themselves have always been “managed”.

For me personally, I have found that thinking there are things you should be able to do that will make feelings or bad situations stop has led to really bad behavior. It didn’t teach me that sometimes things had to feel bad and that I would get through it. Even worse, it let me stay in relationships that were abusive and painful because I felt that if I simply found the right combination of actions, the other person would stop behaving the way they did.

More than anything, I wish that I hadn’t been convinced that there was a right way to behave towards others when I was first forming my identity. I can no longer tell whether I became sexual because I wanted to, or simply because I thought it was what you did with someone you loved and it would make them happy. I followed the scripts that others told me would work, the scripts that not only were supposed to make the other person happy but were supposed to make my emotions work in a certain way. I never felt that I could openly speak about what I wanted or didn’t want, and when I did say no to things there were reasons that had to be stated (because otherwise it will be rejection and that makes the other person sad: you didn’t input correctly). I wish that I hadn’t been spending my time trying to suss out how to get others to act, but rather taking the time to think about what I actually wanted and what I care about.

When I was asked recently about how I would be in a relationship without feeling that I needed to manage the other person, I replied that I can’t even imagine what I’m like just being myself in a relationship. This is a good part of why I’m finding the question of identity and orientation very confusing. I feel like every relationship I’ve been in, I’ve acted the way I felt would make the other person happy, repressed the parts of myself that wouldn’t have the right reaction, and said things I didn’t wholly mean becuase it was what you were supposed to say in order to make another person smile. I went through grandiose gestures of romance because that was what it meant to “be in a relationship” that was how you were supposed to show your love and if you did that then your relationship would be good.

All of these ways of approaching relationships are about looking at outward signifiers (what action did I take and what action did I get in response) instead of actually trying to get information from each person about what’s happening internally. I want to be honest in my actions instead of spending my life trying to manage exactly the right stimulus to garner the right response in people I care about. If I have children, I don’t want to try to come up with tricks to get them to behave well. With myself, I don’t want to bypass what my emotions are telling me by coming up with some action that shuts off the bad feelings. I am not a code to be cracked. I don’t need anyone else trying to figure out how to fix my feelings, nor do I need to fix myself. I need honest communication that asks how I can recognize my emotions, understand why they’re happening, and deal with the source of the problem.

BDSM: A Feminist Pursuit, But Not Taken Lightly

BDSM

So there’s a lovely little post up at The Pervocracy about BDSM and feminism and how you can do both at the same time, which I a.want to promote and b.want to add to. Now I am going to add the caveat that I do not personally practice BDSM and so if I get things wrong I am HIGHLY sorry and I don’t want to be stepping on any toes for talking about things that I don’t know about. Anywho, I think this post got a lot of things right. I think it’s right that feminism shouldn’t want to “save women from themselves”, I think it’s right that in general the BDSM community pays a lot more attention to consent and safety than other people who have sex, I think that feminism has no place telling women what makes them feel good, and I think that BDSM is a whole lot more complicated than “submissive female, dominant male”. So back off people who are all anti-BDSM.

Now that being said I have worries about all kinds of sex as a feminist and that extends to BDSM. Again, I think everyone has the right to pursue whatever kind of sex they want as long as it’s consensual and doesn’t harm anyone (more than they want to be harmed). But in situations of BDSM where there is a submissive women and a dominant man, I worry that it confirms certain scripts that are all too common in our communities. While it’s true that that might be your personal kink and it might make you feel strong and powerful, we all have to be aware of the fact that our desires are shaped by the community that we come from. I often have the desire to just roll over like a rug and let people walk all over me in my relationships. That’s certainly societally conditioned. It’s not good for me, and the more I do it, the more I confirm that that’s what women do: I set a bad example for any women around me.

This is not to say that I should feel guilty for these urges. It is not to say that there’s something wrong with me for wanting to be submissive sometimes. And it’s not to say that I might not naturally be a quiet person (hint: I’m really really not). What it DOES mean is that I should be aware of the times when I want to act out the script that’s been given to me and consciously choose whether I want to follow it or not.

I think that in many ways these same considerations apply to BDSM scenes. Even if we are acting out violence towards women in a fully consensual way that makes a woman feel powerful, it is still repeating the same script of violence against women. And that has the potential to be far more dangerous than we may expect it to be. Even if our intentions in acting a certain way are to please ourselves, to make ourselves feel powerful or connected to another human being, we should also be aware that what we’re doing is part of a context: the context in which violence against women is normalized and we are continuing to create that image.

Now BDSM is slightly different from my desire to let my partner make all the decisions in my life because it is in fact a role-play, and because it is usually very private. For these reasons, I think that it may not in fact be as worrisome as some other examples of unexamined desire. But that doesn’t mean that it’s entirely unproblematic. I think that when people choose to engage in BDSM, they should be aware of the potential for their actions to be misinterpreted as upholding the status quo, they should be ready to vehemently argue against that (as the article cited above did), and they should be ready to act very differently in their lives when they are not roleplaying.

I’m really not entirely sure how we can follow what we desire and want while still criticizing the status quo. If I desperately want to be a housewife, should I give up that dream because it gives a certain impression of women? Probably not, but I should be aware that my choice might have been shaped by other pressures, and talk about it with my daughters/sisters/friends/women around me. How do you think we should deal with it when what we want may not be entirely up to us? I think that again we might find ourselves caught between our responsibility to follow our own desires and do what makes us feel good, and our responsibility to act in a way that promotes the well-being of others. Our desires don’t exist in a vacuum, so how do we follow them while also challenging the things that might have shaped our desires?